Bonita Springs — The Bonita Springs Relay for Life will have a new venue this year at Riverside Park. Thousands of supporters will gather at the park on Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15 to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“Riverside Park belongs to the community,” said Bobbi Bird, chair for the 2012 Bonita Springs Relay for Life. “Relay for Life will be held at Riverside Park for the first time … integrating it fully with the Bonita Springs community.
“The Park was built by the city for these events and is safe, well-done, overseen by the city, a good place to be.”
Walkers, bike riders, the curious and the interested will be free to stop in from Noon Saturday, through 7 a.m. Sunday for the festivities that support the American Cancer Society mission which is the dedication to eliminating cancer as a major health problem through prevention, saving lives, diminishing suffering, research, education, advocacy and service. More than 4,000 people are expected during the 18-hour event.
“Cancer never sleeps and neither do we,” Bird said.
She explained that the reason that Relay for Life continues for 18 non-stop hours is to create the fun and excitement of a festival and the joy of serving a worthwhile cause.
According to Bird, the event continues through the darkest hours as part of the meaningful symbolism that touches hearts throughout the event.
Their goal is to raise $63,000 from the Relay activities.
“Every penny of that money goes for the mission, not overhead,” Bird said. “Any overhead for the event is paid by sponsors.”
The Relay for Life track will be located in front of the band shell. Opening ceremonies will be held at 12:30 p.m. followed by the first themed walk, the survivor lap, at 1 p.m. Teams commit to raise a total amount equal to the members of their team times $100. Team members receive a commemorative t-shirt when their $100 individual goal or the group goal is met. Most teams raise money at the event. Many teams raise funds throughout the year. This includes teams like Bonita Springs Utilities that has a profound employee commitment including a retiree who requested donations to Relay for Life instead of gifts. New teams this year include Citrus Park and First Baptist Church Youth Ministry.
Team sites around the park encourage donations for which donors may engage in activities, enjoy food from baked goods to hamburgers, bounce in the Walgreen’s bounce house, play glow in the dark volleyball and more. A drop-in services tent provides hospitality for survivors and caregivers. Family activities that continue all night include: scavenger hunt, line dancing the entire track, electric camp fire, story time, frozen t-shirt contest and more. To last through the night, some small tents are expected, especially for families with small children. Others go home for a catnap and a shower and return with renewed energy. The atmosphere is electric enough to keep many participants running on adrenalin.
The track has people in motion for the entire 18 hours, beginning with the survivor lap at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon followed by additional themed laps such as: pajama lap, cowboy hat lap, slipper lap and backwards lap. The final lap at 7 a.m. Sunday morning is the fight back lap.
The luminary ceremony at 9 p.m. on Saturday evening promises to be one of the event highlights. The planning committee was led by husband and wife team Jeanne (chair) and Gerald (co-chair) Weis who represent the Collier Unit of the American Cancer Society. Luminaries may be purchased at the event.
Professor Patches, famous sleight of hand magician, will entertain the children for the first time in Bonita Springs. Known by local adults as Keith Raygor, his sleight of hand magic has entertained diners at the Watermark Grill for more than 11 years. He amazes close up and personal, a performance no one will want to miss.
Bobbi Bird chairs many community events and people often ask how she became involved in Relay for Life.
“I am a cancer survivor, first at 9 years of age and recently, three years ago,” Bird said. “I walked as a survivor when Relay for Life was at the Bonita Springs YMCA.”
Bird celebrated her 59th birthday on Valentine’s Day. She admits to a very busy life.
“Statistics prove the more birthdays a person has, the longer they live,” Bird said.
This is just one example of her positive attitude toward her activities and life itself.
IF YOU GO
American Cancer Society Relay for Life
Where: Riverside Park, Bonita Springs
When: April 14, 12:30 p.m. through April 15, 7 a.m. (18 hours straight)